The motorsport manager of the P Lunga manufacturer explains how the commitment to racing – between single-seaters, Gran Turismo and rallying – allows for a transfer of knowledge that is crucial for making tires used on everyday roads. “To the point that the” branded “ad hoc for premium cars, developed in collaboration with the manufacturers, are our fundamental focus”
– imola (bo)
Over 6,000 Pirelli tires brought to Imola for the first round of the GT World Challenge Europe in the 2022 season, which on Sunday 3 April saw Valentino Rossi debut at the wheel of the Wrt team’s Audi R8 Lms GT3. The manufacturer of P Lunga, the sole supplier of the series organized by Sro, renews its commitment to motorsport in three main areas: in addition to Formula 1, also Gran Turismo races and the WRC World Rally. At the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, the Italian company supplied the Pirelli P Zero Dhf used for the GT3 championship, but also for the GT4 and GT2 side series, as well as the Lamborghini Super Trofeo one-make. “The new Pirelli Dhf made its debut at Imola, a single product and a single compound that must give its best in very different contexts – says Mario Isola, motorsport manager of the Milanese company -, both in terms of weather and temperatures, and of type of circuits, cars and drivers, professionals or gentlemen “.
In the relationship between racing with GT supercars and high-performance road cars, what are the direct links?
“For Pirelli motorsport is an open-air laboratory, ‘From race to road’ is not just our slogan, but a reality, which involves all categories: from Formula 1 to GT to rallying. A transfer of technologies, which can be used on road tires. It is important to remember that in terms of working methodology, the tires of GT competitions and some tires used in rallies are made with the same production process used for Formula 1.
How much do the skills acquired in motorsport benefit the road product?
“I give an example. In F1, apart from the fact that today the 18-inch tire is very similar to the size we use on the road, we have already learned a lot with the previous 13 ” tires. Think of virtual models, an aspect that is very developed in F1, so much so that there is an intense use of simulators. Having a virtual tire model that can be used with the simulator, and therefore having the driver drive a car in the simulator that is very faithful to the real one, is an essential factor. When you develop these skills in the company, then you are able to use these models also in the world of GT racing, and road cars “.
A race like the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps of the GT World Challenge, where conditions are often prohibitive in terms of weather, how much data does it allow you to collect?
“Testing a rain tire is the most difficult to carry out, because you have to do it on specific tracks where the asphalt can be constantly wet. To this end, a race like Spa, in wet conditions, which runs for many hours, with dozens of cars engaged, allows us to collect a wealth of data, feedback, information, opinions of the drivers and telemetry data that are very important to to analyze. And sometimes it’s not easy to analyze them. Fortunately today there are advanced tools, for example i big data and the multiple correlations that are developing a lot. In fact, we have a dedicated group of people in the company to develop these issues (overall a working group of over 1,000 employees between Milan and England, and dedicated factories; n.dr). We talked about rain, but this methodology can be applied in other situations, for example when racing at certain temperatures, or when you want to understand ‘graining’ depending on the type of track “.
How much does the type of asphalt affect the performance in the race?
“Much. The interaction between tire and asphalt is a very important element, so much so that our dedicated team reaches dozens of tracks every year, and measures the grain size of the asphalt on each of them. When we succeed, this operation is carried out both before and after the race in order to understand how much the track has gummed, and therefore how much grip has changed. In Formula 1, for example, we use a ‘grip tester’ that allows us to measure the level of grip, and take a ‘picture’ of the grip on the track and how it evolves over the weekend. Understanding how your compounds interact with the asphalt is important in motorsport, to define performance, durability, degradation, and also in the field of road cars “.
After the first two races in F1 with the new 18 ” tires, do you already have indications and evaluations from the drivers and teams?
“After the two test sessions and the first two races of the 2022 season we have collected a lot of data, and now it is important for us to understand if what we saw last year with the ‘forklifts’ (the cars used before the presentation of the cars of the various teams, Ed) reflect on the cars that are racing, considering that the aerodynamic package is different. We are finding some small differences, for example a difference in lap times. We will evaluate whether we will have to make small corrections in view of 2023 “.
Pirelli manufactures dozens of “branded” tires, in synergy with car manufacturers, to obtain ad hoc products: how does this relationship develop?
“For us, premium cars are the main focus. The customized tires, or rather the ‘marked’ tires, are developed in collaboration with the testers of the car manufacturers to achieve the best performance, or the targets that are defined by the manufacturer itself. As for the balance between two antithetical factors, performance and duration over time, this aspect is agreed with the house “.
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